A FORMER Sussex Sports Personality of the year is remembered by his family and friends as a humble family man who loved life.

Brian Leach, from Brighton, passed away on March 13, 2018, at 85.

The popular sportsman is described by family and friends as someone who loved sports with immense passion.

Although Brian had won more than 60 trophies, he had always shown great humility and had set a good example to younger players.

He was born in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, on May 13, 1933, and moved to Brighton at a young age.

He followed in the footsteps of his father, Ernst Leach, who was also a sportsman.

Brian hailed from a family who has had a long history in Sussex. His grandfather, the tall and commanding Robert Leach, owned the biggest fishing fleet off the Sussex coast and he also ran a fish market.

Robert not only enjoyed his position in the fishing industry, but he was also a friend of King Edward VII. After retiring from being a sailor, he became a racehorse owner.

When Brian was 12, he won the 100 yards race at De’Aston School, Lincolnshire. He also played for the school’s cricket and football team.

When he lived in Brighton, he played football for Brighton Boys and with Aldrington Juniors. He went on to play in the cricket and football team for Hove College.

The college said he was a talented football player who had potential to be a professional.

However, Brian’s big interest was predominantly in table tennis. When he was 14, he played table tennis at the Park Crescent Youth Club in Brighton. When he turned 15, he joined Brighton YMCA and won the Aquarium junior championship title in 1948.

This victory led to him being selected to represent Brighton in inter-counties competitions.

At 18, he was called for national service and joined the RAF where he was stationed at the Persian Gulf. While serving in the air force, he played football for the RAF.

He travelled to different parts of the Middle East including Iraq, Kuwait and Bahrain.

After returning from the RAF, Brian represented the county at table tennis team and achieved glory.

From 1953 to 1957, the decorated champion regularly made headlines in local and regional papers.

When he was 24, he won Sports Personality of the Year in 1957. The papers described his playing style as “reducing his opponents to impotency.”

He won the YMCA championship three times; two time winner of the Sussex-Surrey YMCA title; Sussex men’s doubles title twice and the mixed-doubles championship.

He also won a mixed doubles championship with his partner Wendy Bates when the pair were dominant in the Brighton and District Table Tennis League.

In 1956, he was the Brighton triple champion and in 1957 he was the Brighton handicap winner.

He was also the Crawley triple champion and handicap winner.

His victories in handicap matches proved he was an exquisite player.

Brian also represented the Sussex County Table Tennis Association and helped the team secure the inter-counties national championships by defeating Kent at Orpington in 1956.

He married his wife Christina in Brighton in the 1950s.

Brian had dedicated a big part of his life to sports. His advice to young players was to never give up and to always practice.

Even until his retirement he continued to play table tennis and golf.

On December 2017 he had a catastrophic stroke from which he never recovered.

His death was caused by pneumonia. He passed away on March 13, 2018.